EPA: Freeze in the Winter and Burn Up in the Summer

The Environmental Protection Agency just put a giant lump of coal in the stocking of America’s utility companies in the form of the Utility MACT Act. MACT stands for Maximum Achievable Control Technology, and the rule is designed to fulfill Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to make electricity bills skyrocket. From Hot Air:

According to Scott Segal, the director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, this rule…is the most expensive air rule the EPA has ever proposed in terms of direct costs.

“Utility MACT will undermine job creation in the United States in several different ways,” Segal explained. “It will result in retirement of a significant number of power plants and either fail to replace that capacity or replace it with less labor-intensive forms of generation. It will increase the cost of power, undermining the international competitiveness of almost two dozen manufacturing industries, and it will reduce employment upstream in the mining sectors. All told, it is anticipated that the rule will result in the loss of some 1.44 million jobs by 2020. While some jobs are created by complying with the new rule, the number and quality of those jobs is far less than those destroyed. We estimate that for every one temporary job created, four higher-paying permanent jobs are lost.”

The EPA has tried to mitigate the outcry against this rule by including a so-called “safety valve” provision in the rule. Ordinarily, the Clean Air Act (under which the Utility MACT rule falls) mandates that plants comply with the regulations within a three-year time frame. Understandably, some plants might not be able to upgrade within that allotted span — and too many shutdowns could affect electricity reliability. The “safety valve” provision allows up to five years for compliance.

But this doesn’t actually address the reliability question. Why? Plants won’t know up front whether they qualify for the extra year or two. Instead, they’ll have to attempt to upgrade in the first three years — and then, if their best attempts to meet the requirements fail, they can apply for extra time to comply. In the process, they’ll spend millions of dollars and still potentially face a shutdown. It wouldn’t be surprising if plenty of plants opted to shut down right away, rather than risk wasting three years attempting to meet the requirements only to be denied extra time and shut down in the end. Whether a plant qualifies for extra time will be solely up to the discretion of EPA officials, anyway.

In other words, the combination of the Utility MACT rule with the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (or CSAPR, pronounced “Casper”) could close dozens of power plants across the U.S., causing rolling blackouts and the loss of good-paying power plant jobs. Not that environmenalists care about either of those things. After all, they think that (a) we can snap our fingers and make wind farms and solar panels more efficient than fossil fuels and (b) all those power plant workers can just go work in “green technology” companies (propped up by taxpayer funds, of course).

Contrary to what Democrats say, nobody is in favor of dirty air. What we do favor is reasonable time frames for adding environmental equipment that doesn’t compromise the power grid or American jobs. Democrats seem, by turns, mystified why companies aren’t using their stashed-away bucks to create jobs and angry that companies try to evade the most onerous regulations through litigation. Perhaps if the EPA wasn’t trying so hard to kill the power industry, more jobs–the kind that pay a living wage–would be created.

11 Comments

  1. I was reading an article in The Family Handyman today about lighting choices — sorry, the article isn’t available online — and the feds regulations to get rid of incandescent bulbs for standard usage. (They’d be allowed for some applications, such as refrigerator lights and other applications where other bulbs just don’t work well.) The article discussed the CFL bulbs, and noted the mercury content, and the new light emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which don’t come close (yet) to incandescent bulb illumination and are hideously expensive.

    A lot of people buy CFLs now, because they are reasonable alternatives economically: while their longevity claims were bogus, they are more energy efficient, and people switched because it made sense for them to do so; they didn’t need the nanny state mandating it.

    And now, as President Obama is excoriating the Republicans in the House for not passing the continuation of the Social Security tax holiday, which will cost working men 2% of their gross earnings, his Administration is putting new rules into effect which will raise their utility rates. The EPA estimates the Utility MACT cost at $10.9 billion per year with retail electricity prices increasing by an average of 3.7% and consumer natural gas prices increasing by 0.6% to 1.3%, but I’d never trust the government to give a fair accounting of the costs; the EPA has a vested interest in low-balling those numbers.

    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, announced his intention to file a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Utility MACT rule. If adopted by both chambers and signed by the President, the joint resolution would effectively overturn the Utility MACT. Of course, President Obama would not sign it, so the only reasonable step to take is to replace him with a Republican President who will sign it.

    There are perfectly reasonable ways to accomplish the reduction in emissions. Power plants, like every other industrial facility, eventually wear out and have to be replaced. It would be reasonable to include regulations which require reduced emissions for future construction, which would allow the proper engineering from the start, and which would phase in the costs much more slowly.

  2. “There are perfectly reasonable ways to accomplish the reduction in emissions. Power plants, like every other industrial facility, eventually wear out and have to be replaced. It would be reasonable to include regulations which require reduced emissions for future construction, which would allow the proper engineering from the start, and which would phase in the costs much more slowly.”

    The reasonable way is exactly what the EPA is doing, allowing time for the coal burning utilities to install the air purifying equipment. If it were not required, chances are that they would keep the old equipment in operation as long as possible. This is what most unregulated companies do.

    A study was done, funded by volunteers, of the community downwind of our old coal burning utility here, and there was a cluster of high incidence of cancer found in this area. The utility has now voluntarily begun to clean up its act, under the watchful eye of our state environmental agency. The harmful polutants emitted by the utility were mercury, arsenic, and fly ash, plus the oxides of sulfur and nitrogen. This is exactly what the EPA is trying to better control nationwide, which I think is a good thing. It is this which distinguishes the United States from countries like China, although to their credit, China is investing in clean energy alternatives.

  3. The EPA isn’t being reasonable because the time period to add the Most Achievable Control Technology isn’t long enough. The kind of retrofits for power plants discussed requires weeks or months and can only be done during outages (typically fall or spring). The equipment itself must be ordered to fit the specific unit and custom-crafted for that unit. Not to mention creating procedures and training personnel in the use and monitoring of the equipment. And did I mention the cost? The Most Achievable Control Technology is the most expensive available. On top of all of this, keep in mind that the power plant owners have no idea whether their best efforts will be acceptable to the EPA; it’s completely arbitrary, and judging from the experience here in Texas, where the EPA only gave the state six months’ notice (as opposed to the mandated 12-month noice) that Texas must comply with CSAPR, I have no faith that the EPA won’t continue to play politics with the nation’s energy.

    Last February and again last August, Texas came very close to the rolling blackout point, and that’s with all units running full out. These rules virtually assure that Texans will be subjected to much higher electricity rates for less reliable service. And here in the real world, power plants take years to build because of the permitting process and regulations. There are no quick, easy, and cheap solutions, and punishing customers during a recession is wrong.

  4. ” If it were not required, chances are that they would keep the old equipment in operation as long as possible. This is what most unregulated companies do.”

    No darling, that’s what the most productive and efficient companies do. Requirements that harm the PEOPLE, cause them undue EXPENSE and harm our ECONOMY are stupid. Any requirements which FORCE free people to change their normal and personal habits and desires in the FREE MARKET is corruption. You really don’t get it do you?

  5. “You really don’t get it do you?”

    Yes I do get it, Hoagie. The EPA is looking out especially for people like you and me, both who already suffer from pulmonary disorders, and then for others who may come to suffer a plethora of disorders from toxic emissions, like pregnant women and their fetuses from mercury and arsenic exposure over time, which impacts fetal brain development, at least. I already gave you the example of a cancer outbreak near where I live.

    And then there is the acid rain which we have here in the east, being downstream of the coal burning power plants of the midwest and their oxides of sulfur and oxides of nitrogen emissions. Our school kids under stand these problems, as judged by their science fair projects. Our daughters, now in their forty’s learned about this in their youth, so that they, like many of their peers, are very environmentally conscious, and are teaching their children to be so as well.

    I think we can afford the extra $3-4 dollars per month to put these air purifiers in place. It is unfortunate that TX did not have the foresight to plan for their power needs, but with due diligence and some energy conservation, they will make it through this temporary period of some shortages during ultra-hot weather brought on by climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions.

    At what temperature do you keep your house during the summer, Sharon. We keep ours in the 78-80 degree range, and are perfectly comfortable. Having ceiling fans in every room, and shutting down rooms not in use, also helps.

    Where there is a will, there is a way!

  6. The kinds of changes necessary to meet these standards aren’t going to cost consumers $3-$4 per month, WW. If your electric bill is, say $300 per month now, it will double. Why? Because the costs of the equipment is very expensive and, as any sensible person knows, those costs aren’t absorbed by a company; they get passed on to the customers.

    Moreover, in a deregulated market like Texas, there is no Public Utilities Commission that can set the rate to cover these increased costs. The free market–something President Obama despises–sets the rates. Right now, you can get a monthly rate that ranges from about 5.6 cents per kilowatt to about 13 cents per kilowatt. But imagine what happens to your electric bill if you now have to pay, say 30 or 40 cents per kilowatt.

    I’ve lived in Texas my entire life. It gets hot in the summer here, and that’s not about “global warming.” Please don’t try to tell me about your pathetic attempts at controling your electric bill. We keep our thermostat at 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer. We have ceiling fans to circulate air and a smart thermostat that raises and lowers the temperature while we’re not here, so that we don’t waste money heating and air conditioning an empty house.

    The reason the electric grid here was strained last summer is because there are lots more people here than used to be. You might have heard about this in the news, WW. Booming economy and reasonably pleasant weather = people moving here. All those people with all their stuff use more electricity. And because of groups like the EPA, the Sierra Club, and other environmental whackos who hate human electric consumption, building new power plants is a long, tedious, and expensive process. Power plants don’t just spring up overnight; it takes years and years to create and develop a new plant. Moreover, wind and solar simply don’t produce the kind of electricity fossil fuels can. So for every lefty touting wind power, they need to go study the science before opening their mouths.

    None of this is about Texas ‘not having the foresight to plan,” WW. The electricity companies here have, in fact, tried for years to build new plants, but the regulatory system makes it onerous and unprofitable to do so. That encourages companies to keep the old, dirty plants in production.

    The worst part about all this ‘concern’ about mercury, SO2, etc. is that it completely ignores the people most hurt by these regulations: poor consumers. Those are the people who can’t afford an extra $200 per month for electricity. And the many people who will lose their good-paying power plant jobs will also be harmed by this rush to change.

    The Obama administration doesn’t care about ordinary people with their pesky problems. This is about forcing people to do what ‘they’ think is best. We have to vote these tyrants out of office and bring regulatory agencies under more control by Congress.

  7. “The kinds of changes necessary to meet these standards aren’t going to cost consumers $3-$4 per month, WW. If your electric bill is, say $300 per month now, it will double. Why? Because the costs of the equipment is very expensive and, as any sensible person knows, those costs aren’t absorbed by a company; they get passed on to the customers.”

    Sharon, you appear to be guessing that rates would double, it seems to me. The $3-$4 dollars per month is a claim of the EPA. If you have a different figure, please document it.

    If you don’t believe the points I made about the toxicity of the gases from burning coal,

    maybe you will pay more attention to Mayor Bloomberg:

    “But the Obama administration has found an ally in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who argued in a recent op-ed for the Huffington Post that the new standards are gravely needed.
    “We can stop this,” Bloomberg wrote of mercury poisoning. “We can spare children this tragic injustice and the pain it brings their families. We can spare adults from losing years off their lives. And we can spare taxpayers the enormous health care costs that come with mercury-related-illnesses.”"

    I don’t think you have researched this topic very well, Sharon. As a mother yourself, I would think you would be concerned, especially since mercury and arsenic are known poisons that affect fetuses and young children the most.

    I don’t have time at the moment, but I will do some research myself again, to try to find something that might get you to thinking about this a little more.

  8. Yes, not only are taxpayers subsidizing the ReVolt to the tune of a quarter of a million bucks per copy, it’s government agencies who are buying the horrid little golf carts.

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